Populus balsamifera, a watercolour and graphite work by Elaine Funnell (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Nature art comes in bright and muted colours at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre

Artists Mim Thompson and Elaine Funnell use opposite approaches

A full spectrum of nature art — from delicate botanicals to bold animal paintings — can be seen this summer at Red Deer’s Kerry Wood Nature Centre.

Due to a “happy accident,” two very different exhibits were booked for the Marjorie Wood Gallery at the same time.

Todd Nivens, program coordinator for the Waskasoo Environmental Society, said staff decided to optimize the situation by installing Elaine Funnell’s watercolours in the gallery and Mim Thompson’s acrylic/mixed media works in the central open space within the nature centre.

Since both women created exceptional art using opposite approaches, “we thought it would be very interesting,” said Nivens, for centre visitors to be able to observe these differing styles of nature painting.

On the meticulously detailed end are Funnell’s muted paintings of tree bark, leaves, flowers and dragonflies, showing until Sept. 17 in the Marjorie Wood Gallery.

Her Botanical Art: My Perspective exhibit is very reminiscent of the lushly illustrated science journals of the 1700 and 1800s. The Spruce Grove artist takes “a very literal and scientific look at nature and the environment — almost at a microscopic level,” said Nivens.

On the more expressionistic side is No Shades of Grey, an exhibit of eye-poppingly bright works by Thompson, set up on easels in the central space until Aug. 19.

The Ontario native, who’s lived near Pine Lake since 2013, uses various styles — from interwoven patterns with “hidden” animals in them, to more realistic renderings of fish, turtles, otters and other animals that exist in a fragile ecosystem.

Some of her paintings, including Slipping Away of an ocean turtle in the tide, were inspired by the years she spent in Western Australia, where she met her husband. A fossil painting, Relic, was sparked by Alberta’s pre-historic finds.

Thompson, who’s taken many art workshops, has been creatively invigorated since arriving in this province for work reasons from her former home near Sudbury. In a change from observing Northern Ontario’s lakes, rocks and trees, she began paying attention to the subtle colours of Alberta’s ever-changing prairie vista.

“There’s something haunting about it. .. If you’re not interested, you can easily miss it, but if you stay, you can fall in love with it.”

Although most of her exhibited works are nature-based, Thompson also makes a statement about people living in a virtual world with Temet Nosce (Latin for ‘know thyself’).

The Kerry Wood Nature Centre will hold an opening reception for these exhibits from 4-6 p.m. on Aug. 4, the First Friday of August.


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